Vintage Guitar - July 2018 - open - 124
VG APPROVED GEAR
THE TUBE ABIDES
Universal Audio's OX Amp Top Box
ince the mid '60s, electrical engineers
have been trying to drive a stake into
the heart of the vacuum tube, first with
transistors, then with zeros and ones. Yet the
tube abides, because nothing can replicate
the crunch and organic feel of warm power
tubes clipping and overtones moaning.
But tube saturation comes with a heavy
price, namely eviction-noticing, divorcepaper-serving volume. To tame the beast,
some have crossed over to
the dark reign of digital
modeling amps. Universal Audio, venerable
maker of professional
analog studio gear, believes it doesn't have
to be that way. Their
OX Amp Top Box is a
attenuator that lets a
player tap the sonic beauty
of your tube amp while sparing loved
ones the ear-splitting volume.
The OX plugs into the signal chain
between an amp and speakers, and uses
a reactive load to emulate an additional
speaker load, which allows you to drive
the amp at full throttle while producing
bedroom-level volume (or no volume if
you choose to use a set of head phones).
The OX can select 4-, 8-, or 16-ohm loads
to match any speaker configuration.
The result is you hear the amp in its preSpace-Age glory, through your cabinet, in the
quiet confines of your space.
If you've never used an attenuator or load box,
this might be the first time you experience all
of your amp's combinations of preamp
and power-tube settings and the way it reacts
specifically to the way you play. Let's face it, if
your gig is in small clubs or basement jam rooms,
you're unlikely to drive the power tubes on a Twin
Reverb and Marshall stack. In larger venues, that
pesky front-of-house man is going to mic your
amp and shut you down below your sweet spot.
The OX does amp attenuation very well,
but what really sets it apart is its speaker/rig
emulation and dynamic room/mic modeling.
Plugged into a 15-watt tweed Deluxe and
85-watt Twin Reverb, the OX was amazing.
Have you ever really heard your amp (not
some SIM plug-in) cranking in its sweet spot
in a great-sounding room? Most of us don't
have access to big spaces, expensive roomdampening treatment, or the patience (or
experience) to properly set up mics. Those
of us who try to record amps know all too
well how it never seems to sound as good
as it should - not because of the amp, but
because of the room (or lack thereof).
The OX's six-position Rig control quickly
chooses from complete setups that include
emulated speaker cabinets, close mics, ambient room mics, and up to four simultaneous
studio effects. Built-in wi-fi allows customization of more than 100
rig and room combinations from an iPad or
Mac. Remember, this
is your amp, with all its
the emulated speaker
cabinets to breakup. Just
be aware that you won't
hear this coming out of
your cab, though, as the
modeling output is routed
to a pair of balanced line outs (for
a PA mixer or recording interface), digital
stereo S/PDF outputs, optical Toslink, or to
the headphone jack, which makes for hours
of fun with your amp in amazing studioquality settings - all without anyone in the
next room even having a clue.
The OX is a beautiful marriage of tubeguitar amplification and digital modeling.
It really ties the room together... and the
tube abides. - Ray Wuolo